I probably shouldn’t blog for a third time in one day, especially when the first post was long and drifted into incoherence (as of 10.00pm it hasn’t had a single ‘like’ which I don’t think happened for a while – I usually get one or two) and the second was probably drifting along a line between neurosis and psychosis. But I’m still agitated and my mind is still racing and I’m trying to cope.
I feel quite suicidal again. I went to shiur (Torah class), but struggled. I lied and said I was fine when I should have been honest about how I feel. But how do you say to people that you don’t know well that everything is not fine, that everything is pretty awful all things considered and that the things they take for granted on waking up every day – family, job, income, community, life, sanity – I have to get up and fight for. Every. Single. Day.
I didn’t jump off the pedestrian walkway onto the dual carriageway even though part of me really wanted to. (It would be a horrible way to go, though. About the opposite of dying painlessly in your sleep.)
I thought a lot about suicide during shiur. The assistant rabbi spoke in the shiur about concepts that can’t be explained in words, either due to their inherent depth or the speaker not really understanding them. For me suicide is only partly from despair, although total despair and lack of hope for any improvement in my life at all is a necessary precondition for feeling suicidal. I am not sure, however, that it is a sufficient condition.
For me suicide, as I fantasise about it, is in part a performance, an action done to communicate an emotional state to other people. Suicide comes from loneliness, but probably not from being utterly alone. It comes from having things that I want to say to other people that I can not say, either due to shyness, inarticulacy or the fact that I no longer have any contact with them. Inherent in my suicidal fantasies is the concept of somehow knowing that other people will hear of my suicide, that they will know and that they will understand a particular message, the message that I am unable to cope with life and, as a subtext, that they are partially to blame for my inability to cope. Hence the fact that suicidal thoughts are linked strongly for me with googling to try to find out what peers from school and Oxford are now doing, people who on some level I blame for my problems. (This does not reflect well on me, I know.)
Having been ignored most of my life, the desire to be known, the desire for my pain and my struggle to be known is almost overwhelming. I want to scream; dying would be the biggest scream I can imagine, the only scream I could make that might have the chance of pushing Trump, Brexit and Syria off the news for a few minutes, at least for the small number of people who have met me at some point in my life. And they might think, “I didn’t know he felt so bad.” And they might think, “Maybe I should have said something to him.”
I understand that these feelings are quite common, common enough for suicide prevention charities to ask the media to downplay reports of suicide and avoid romanticising them or attaching any kind of aura of glory or fame to the deceased (see here).
Of course the idea of killing myself to communicate my inarticulable feelings to other people is based on several false premises. One, that I can actually survive long enough to see and get some satisfaction from the result (I do sometimes fantasise about making a failed suicide attempt, but that would most likely result in people being angry with me, the usual response of friends and family to a failed suicide attempt). It also assumes that my suicide can and will be understood the way I want, whereas it is likely that many of the people I would like to know about my death would never hear (the global Jewish community is small and close-knit, but we don’t all hear about each other). Many people I remember have probably long-forgotten about me and even if they have not and they hear, they might still not draw the conclusions I want. They might think, “I always knew he was weird/screwed up/a failure.” They might assume that the trigger for my suicide came long after they knew me, which would not be entirely inaccurate. Or they might descend into permanent blame and depression themselves, which I don’t really want because I’m not a sadist or vengeful. I want to be understood, not ruin everyone else’s lives the way mine was ruined.
The other side of suicide, about which there is not much to say, is the idea of a redemptive death. Suicide can’t really be construed in that way. Since adolescence I have fantasised about a heroic death that would somehow save others. It’s not likely to happen, not least because I know I’m a coward and could never do anything brave.
There are a couple of reasons why I’ve never gone through with a suicide attempt, although there have been a few close calls. The first is a fear of pain. I don’t fear death very much, but I do fear pain and the thought of a long, lingering death or a failed attempt resulting in permanent, painful injury is not pleasant. Few methods of suicide seem even remotely painless and certain of success. Second is not wanting to upset my family and, now, my close friends (it’s probably only in the last year or so that I feel I have friends close enough to care). Third is the flipside of what I said about wanting people to feel guilty: I’m not a cruel person and I don’t really want people to feel guilty about my death for the rest of their lives. It’s a fantasy when I feel very angry and alone, but not one I really want to come true. I have no desire to hurt anyone, just to be understood.
The problem is that I don’t know how to communicate these feelings healthily. I suppose I have therapy and I have this blog, but both run into barriers of articulacy – I can not articulate all the things I feel, because I am overwhelmed by my feelings and lack the vocabulary to describe them. Plus neither is much of an audience. Therapy is with one person and my blog is with a handful of people, most of whom don’t know me in real life.
Somehow I wish a bit of my feelings could be known to the people around me without having to go to the extreme of hurting myself or trying to kill myself, but without my needing to find the words and the confidence to say them. Of course, people probably wouldn’t know how to react if I did tell them, even assuming that there is a type of reaction that I am looking for that wouldn’t leave me feeling embarrassed or useless.